I am a new student of the russian language. I came across 'падать/упасть' to fall. Could someone explain this to me because they look like entirely different words to my untrained eyes. Even just a link to an article that explain the grammar behind this would be highly appreciated.

Спасибо большое.

  • я падал = I was falling я упал = I have fell
    – user3702
    Mar 31, 2014 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


This is a typical imperfective/perfective pair of verbs, they are different in their aspect only. And they, actually, have the same root, -пад-, only in падать it is followed by a thematic vowel -a-, and упасть does not have the vowel, the root is immediately followed by the infinitive suffix -ть, so the two similar consonants get dissimilated:

*у-пад-ть -> упасть

Still, in its Future forms the final д of the root reappears:

я упаду

ты упадёшь

он упадёт, etc.

And in the Past forms this д disappears again, before the Past Tense suffix -л:

*у-пад-л -> упал

As for the meaning of the two verbs, падать is the name of the process of falling, "to fall/to be falling", and also it means "to fall repeatedly, all the time":

Падают листья. - The leaves fall/are falling.

Я всё время падаю, когда катаюсь на коньках. - I'm always falling while skating.

Упасть also means "to fall", the difference is it implies falling as having either the beginning or the end of it. Since things usually fall fast, this very verb is rarely used in the meaning "to begin falling", it mostly means "to fall down (and reach the bottom or the lowest level)":

Он упал и сломал ногу. - He fell down and broke his leg.

Цена на нефть упала. - The price of oil has dropped.

Note that упасть, like all the perfective Russian verbs, cannot be used in the Present Tense, its forms that look like Present actually mean the Future. Падать can be used in all the three Russian tenses.

  • Спасибо! I will mark this as the accepted answer after a few minutes have passed to give someone else a shot at improving on this answer (if it's possible!)
    – Fred James
    Mar 28, 2014 at 2:02
  • 1
    I'm russian, but your explanation is very interesting even for me. Thanks. +1
    – Dmitry
    Mar 28, 2014 at 22:22
  • 1
    I keep coming back to this incredible answer just to read it again and again. You answered one thing and taught so much more. Thank you again from England!
    – Fred James
    Apr 2, 2014 at 5:14

падать = to be falling

упасть = to fall

  • 1
    What about "Осенью листья падают с деревьев"? Is it "are falling"?
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 28, 2014 at 1:39

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